The Paulding High School class of 1993 wanted to make sure everyone could take part in their 25th anniversary, even the ones that were no longer with them.
During its reunion weekend, the class held a memorial ride that visited the graves of classmates they had lost of the years. There have been 11 classmates who have died since graduation. There were a total of 149 people who were part of the class of 1993.
The memorial ride was organized by classmate Matt Carder.
“I’m a biker, and one of the things we do when someone passes is we always ride to their funeral,” Carder said. “We (the class) got talking about how many we lost, and we decided we wanted to honor them all. At our 20-year (reunion), Tammy Leatherman (Weller) made a poster board and put all their pictures on it, so this year we decided to do something bigger.”
They didn’t just visit their classmates graves, they also had plaques made with the Paulding P in one corner and the word Panthers written on it. The deceased class member’s name was engraved on it, along with the words “from the Paulding High School class of 1993. You will never be forgotten.” A flower also was left on the graves.
Fallen classmates included Paul Fodor, Matt Davis, Christine Estle, Craig McCloud, Shane Casiano, Richie King, J.J. Froelich, Penny Smith, Benjie Leatherman and Kim Justinger.
“Then we had one of our exchange students pass away as well. She was from Amsterdam,” Carder said. “I was able to track her down. I found the cemetery she was buried in. I talked to a guy over there, and he’ll put a plaque there in Amsterdam as well.”
Classmate Darrel Egnor called the memorial ride “one of the most humbling days of my life.”
“The thing was, a lot of us were very close, which made it even better,” Egnor said. “Whenever I go see Shane and Craig, I take a beer with me and pour some out for them. It’s different being out there with classmates. It was cool, and a beautiful day.”
Egnor said he knows it seems like a lot to have 11 classmates gone already.
“I was at the bank and was mentioning it,” he said. “There was a lady there, who graduated in ‘79, and they had only lost five.”
Egnor said it was a variety of things that caused the loss of so many classmates.
“Four were accidents,” he said. “... Craig had Lou Gehrig’s (disease). Benji’s was (from a) kidney disorder.”
Carder said plans started for the ride in April. It took about four hours for the ride, which began in Defiance and visited Riverside Cemetery, Melrose, Payne and then Rochester Cemetery. Among the classmates who took part in the ride were: Carder, Egnor, Leatherman Weller, Laura Lloyd, Robyn Singer Settlemire, Scott Crisp, Angie Vance Lymon and Chris Hankinson. A few significant others also took part in the memorial ride.
“Being in the military, you have a much bigger appreciation for people who passed away,” Carder said. “You really want to honor them. One of our classmates said the only reason he came was because of the ride. He was a retired Army veteran from Alaska and flew down for the ride.”
Egnor said his class has always felt unique.
“We can still call anyone for anything,” he said. “When you do things like this, you realize how close you are and what people mean to you.”